As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing…
Nandita Godbole, author and entrepreneur. Nandita established her brand ‘Curry Cravings™ LLC’, www.currycravings.com, nearly ten years ago which has grown from catering private events, to becoming a globally recognized brand, and her, a globally recognized indie author. Single handedly building a global brand, managing special events and writing several cookbooks, all from scratch comes, with challenges, and today, she shares her journey.
Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Nandita Godbole: When is food not part of our life? But my roots in this span generations.
I come from a family of chefs, restaurateurs — some ways attached to the world of food and hospitality. I had always loved to cook and eat, and throw parties, but chased conventional career paths in my youth, never really focusing on a legacy I carried with me unconsciously.
I lost my first job due to 9/11 so I took on teaching Indian cooking classes as a hobby, while I waited for a ‘real job’. We moved to a different state shortly after, and I found a ‘real albeit part-time job’, that allowed me to juggle my young family life and a career. But after several years of employment, my employer decided that I could no longer be both an employee and a parent at the same time. In Georgia, I could not contest my unwarranted dismissal. This was in 2010. I felt like I was crumbling.
In times of joy or stress, I had returned to food. I had already been doing some catering on the side during the downturn of 2009. So, when the day came to make a decision about my future, I resolved to pursue my own path and develop a business that was shaped on my terms, to rise again.
Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
Godbole: There were two particular days when I felt the ‘deep pits of despair’ in the ten years I have been an entrepreneur.
Losing a job, first in 2001, and then in 2010 — made me feel powerless and vulnerable, that I had willingly allowed someone else to decide my career path for me. I had trusted someone else to offer mentoring and support, and not prepared a plan B. I was filled with remorse and regret that I did not protect my own interests and was distraught that I would not be a good role model for my child.
The second time was actually a period spread over several months. I had spent the two years prior working on my fourth book, a biographical fiction, called ‘Not For You: Family Narratives of Denial & Comfort Foods’ to make it something I was proud of, that would make my late father proud. Since it explored food in a manner seldom discussed before, it even received coverage on NBC twice, once in 2016 and later when the book was launched in March 2018.
I thought I was finally on an upswing — that success was within reach. But when I was away on the book launch, our home was burgled. Many new and preordered books that had only just arrived home from the printers were damaged. Much of my work inventory was damaged. The pre-publication enthusiasm was completely wiped away in my preoccupation with the recovery after a major life event. It kept me from pursuing any future media attention. Voices that once rose in encouraging chorus and praise fell silent. I stared at the black hole of that silence, where my press releases and emails had also disappeared — for only silence answered back. Except for quiet one-line notes that filtered through emails, reviews were mostly missing. As an indie author, I had to take the brunt of everything. The financial and emotion toll of both those events in the same time period was tremendously deep.
I began to doubt myself and my skills, to question if I was skilled enough to write what I had attempted to write about, and struggled to understand why my work was passed over.
I learned some harsh lessons in that time, not only about the fallacy of the trust I had placed in some relationships but also the challenges of putting everything on the line and watching it all fail.
Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Godbole: Each time I did not ‘make the mark’ of ‘expectations’, the imposed self-doubt became debilitating. It felt like a personal failure, not a failure of the mechanisms around me. It did not matter how hard I had worked, I felt betrayed by those I had trusted.
A few peers sent me encouraging emails, or notes with well wishes. Most others told me to forget it all and ‘move on’.
But I was still grieving. I wanted to give up. I began to internalize everything. My health started to spiral and suffer and I choose to ignore it.
That summer, I took a road trip to some of the places I had written about in my book. I met with a few old friends in the mid-west, and traveled to visit old roommates now living in California. I took some time to visit the Muir Woods — we had never been there before. No one talked about my grief, of seeing one’s hard work go so unloved — everyone skirted around it.
Seeing my disappointment, as I missed the empathy or support from peers, my family suggested I begin to work on my next title, one that had spiked a great of interest in my readers. Maybe my previous title was a mistake. Maybe I needed a distraction, everyone said.
I reluctantly moved on to my next project, always hopeful that perhaps someone would deem it worthy. One day, exhausted from waiting, I put away the remaining copies of ‘Not For You’ into a box and wrote to those who had received review copies, that they now owned a collector’s edition. I had nothing more I could say to them to make them change their mind.
Crowley:Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
Godbole: I am still working on defining what ‘success’ truly means. Does it mean that people are validating my efforts? Or does it mean I am validating my own? So, my interpretation of success is not strictly textbook.
Taking my family’s advice, I had begun working on a new title. I knew I had to strategize better and make the most of any early press I could get for the new title. I began asking for advice — from marketing and PR professionals.
Among the many that I tried to brainstorm with, I received one of the best pieces of encouragement from Marisa Dobson, who reminded me that no one’s hard work must languish in the dusty corners just because of a few who did not see the importance of it. As Founder & Principal of Scintillate (www.marisadobson.com), Marisa’s advice came with practical tips. Over a single brief and quick phone call, she helped me brainstorm a strategy, suggesting among many things that perhaps the book just needed an external makeover. She also suggested that since the book was complex and detailed and not the conventional biography but a hybrid, it was more academic than an average reviewer liked — therefore, it had not landed in the hands of the right reviewer just yet.
I put everybody’s ‘2 cents’ of ideas to work and finally when I had about a dollar worth, I began to smile a little. I found a suitable new title that was hidden in the manuscript as a chapter title, redid the cover and rewrote the press release, to highlight information a journalist or reviewer would be able appreciate quicker. Someone quipped in: maybe I needed a new cheer-squad. I began sharing it far and wide, and in different circles.
After several agonizing months of hoping again that the press-release was picked up, the new title ‘Ten Thousand Tongues: secrets of a layered kitchen’ recently received a mention in Forbes. A few journalists who had passed on my book got curious and asked me questions for podcasts, and interviews. I see all this as a huge positive step in the right direction — not only because it means that my work is out of the rut, but so am I.
Ideas from professionals who freely shared their positivity with practical and tangible advice made me hopeful in a manner that no one else had done for me until then. These folks have the capacity to be true mentors. And that is what I hope to be able to do — pay the kindness forward. The phrase, ‘Together, we rise!’ came to the fore, and I began to believe conventional success would happen, in its own time. Afterall, only a jeweler can differentiate between a piece of glass and a diamond.
Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share a 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Godbole: There were three phases to recovering from absence of conventional forms of ‘success’ — recognizing its absence, acknowledging disappointment while strategizing for recovery, and lastly but most importantly, redefining what success really means.
1. The biggest and toughest hurdle when ‘a conventional success’ is not apparent is determining if your product fell in the wrong hands. Spend your efforts and resources wisely, and ask friends often — if your product would be suitable to unconventional uses and therefore need newer audiences. Think outside the box.
2. A setback is only temporary, no one knows your worth better than you — so, believe in yourself. I am starting to think of setbacks as a bully — I can’t let it take over my enthusiasm about my work.
3. Ask around for people who are willing to give you practical advice. And ask them often. People don’t often understand what you, as a creator needs when things don’t look right. Ask many questions to different people, and then place all their ideas in one basket, weigh them against your perspective, and see what is the best way to work through that problem.
Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Godbole: In the dark, even a tiny flicker of light can identify a silhouette.
I would have been likely a bored housewife someplace if my father had not given me his blessings to go to study abroad nearly twenty-five years ago. He hated to see me go, but his faith in me made me want to work really hard to make sure he was proud of whatever I did in life.
I would have been working in a dead-end job had my husband not supported my unconventional career choices, and a desire to do something utterly unique. He has endured all the difficult days that came with every new project I took on. Everyone needs people like this in their life.
Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Godbole: I am working on finishing the second edition of my next methods book, ‘Roti: Easy Indian Breads & Sides’ that will be available on my website and eBook platforms.
I had let work stresses erode my inner wellbeing. So, I am studying to formalize a long-time interest in Ayurveda and holistic eating in a manner that makes practical sense for my personal wellbeing as well as my line of work. As I learn, I improve my skills, and develop a greater appreciation for the different aspects of my work, and I can share those skills with readers and clients alike. The future for my company ‘Curry Cravings ™ LLC’ www.currycravings.com, will be filled with richer and more meaningful experiences for readers and clients alike. Understanding what our body and mind need — is essential to the growth potential and feeling of fulfilment for all of us.
Crowley: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Godbole: I am sharing what I have learned from others, with others. Selfless mentorship is often lacking. I wish more people would be confident enough to see themselves as peers with valuable advice and skills to share, rather than see others in the same line of business merely as competitors. Wouldn’t that make workplaces and businesses more successful?
Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
Godbole: Thank you for asking me to share my story. If any single word can help pull out anyone from the depths of despair in their journey towards their definition of success, I will be thrilled. Success is not easy, it does not come to everyone. More often than not, it is delayed, but kindness and encouragement make the wait bearable. Share those gifts as widely as possible.
Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram & Twitter: @currycravings